FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed concern Sunday that the NFL's ongoing labor dispute is reaching a breaking point with fans.
"One of my concerns is that we not aggravate our fan base, and we have to be very careful. I think we're coming to that point now where we start to hurt ourselves collectively in the eyes of our fans," Kraft said. "In the end, the fans just want football. They don't want to hear about all this meaningless squabbling."
Kraft was speaking at the third annual Raytheon "Science of Sports" Science Fair at Gillette Stadium, where he was joined by Patriots safety Patrick Chung.
It was unusual to see an owner and player side by side at a team's stadium during the lockout, but the league is allowing teams to have players involved in preexisting charitable events that are part of a yearly tradition. Kraft joked that he owed a thank-you to Raytheon for allowing him to see Chung.
"We can't wait to get him back in this building and get our whole team here," Kraft said. "That's what really should happen and we should focus on business."
To do that, Kraft believes the first step is for owners and players to stop litigating.
"I don't think there is another industry in America that's in the court system," Kraft said. "I always believe that you don't solve things through litigation, you solve things by people who have a long-term vested interest in the game sitting down and finding ways to build it.
"Right now, unfortunately what's going on is that we have union attorneys who are controlling a litigation process, and three-to-five years from now they'll be working on other cases and we'll be sitting with the players and agents and people who care about the game, and trying to figure out how to grow it and make it better. So I think people with a vested interest in the game, and growing the game, should be the people dealing with how to solve the problem of our current dispute."
Earlier, Kraft had told those in attendance that he believed there would be football in 2011. He stressed that point to reporters as well.
"The problem can be solved, I really believe that," he said. "If we sit down as principals, I believe we can do a deal very quickly.
"We're blessed to have one of the greatest sports businesses in the world, right here in America. We have a great product and we have to get back to business and find a way to get football going."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.